According to https://freeassangenow.org/faq and https://justice4assange.com/:

Why do the UK and Sweden disobey international law?

There is a conflict between the United Kingdom’s obligations to the 1951 UN refugee convention and its obligations under the European Arrest Warrant system. It is established law that these conflicts are to be resolved in favour of the higher obligation which is to the 1951 convention. The United Kingdom says it has a treaty obligation to extradite Assange to Sweden even though he has not been charged with an offense.

Rather than following international law, the United Kingdom has chosen to interpret the conflict in favor of its geopolitical alliances. The United Kingdom has a history of breaking international law in this manner, for example, in its invasion of Iraq, its cooperation with US rendition operations, and its facilitation of global mass spying via its intelligence service GCHQ. Sweden is also a party to these last two violations.

Are the UK and Sweden in violation of international law with respect to detaining Julian Assange?

  • To answer this question we would have to make a legal judgement, wouldn't we? Normally the 'evidence' would be to cite the legal judgments made by the countries' judiciaries, but you're bringing those into question ... what kind of evidence if any are you looking for with this question?
    – ChrisW
    Nov 2, 2014 at 2:16
  • Note that one of the reason why a question can be closed iis, "Questions about unresolved current events and issues currently under investigation by a court of law, government, or other similar investigative body are off-topic because there is insufficient data for a meaningful answer. For more information, see Handling current news questions." Should this question be closed for that reason, if not why not?
    – ChrisW
    Nov 2, 2014 at 2:17
  • @ChrisW No. I'm quoting a specific claim that "It is established law" that "these conflicts are to be resolved in favour of the higher obligation which is to the 1951 convention." That is not a current news event, and can be investigated separately. The claim is that there is precedent, which can be examined.
    – ike
    Nov 2, 2014 at 2:24
  • I'd rather not change the question title to "Is it established law" because you sort of lose the point of the question then, but that's what it's asking.
    – ike
    Nov 2, 2014 at 2:25
  • 1
    If the question is, "Is there a 1951 UN refugee convention?" that's a matter of fact and trivial. If the question is, "Is the 1951 UN refugee convention applicable?" and "Should 1951 UN refugee convention take precedence in this case?" then isn't that a subject of legal opinion? The only evidence I can imagine being on-topic would be if someone had made this argument to a court, and there were a published court opinion; but aren't you specifically asking whether the UK court's opinion is wrong??
    – ChrisW
    Nov 2, 2014 at 2:28

1 Answer 1


An editorial opinion (16 August 2012) from The Guardian was that Assange is not entitled to protection under the 1951 UN refugee convention.

Refugee protection does not apply to the WikiLeaks founder and it is wrong of him to claim it

As defined by the United Nations convention on refugees, a refugee is a person who "owing to well founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country". A little later on, the text of the convention specifically states that refugee status "shall not apply to any person with respect to whom there are serious reasons for considering that … he has committed a serious non-political crime outside the country of refuge".

Whatever views one may have about Julian Assange as a WikiLeaks activist, it is clear that in legal and moral terms he cannot properly be described as a refugee. [...] Since Mr Assange is wanted by the courts in Sweden for the specific and proper purpose of answering two allegations of sexual assault, which is in anyone's language a serious non-political crime, it is also clear that he is specifically disbarred from being treated as a refugee.

None of this fundamental aspect of Mr Assange's status was discussed in any serious way on Thursday by the Ecuadorian foreign minister etc.

The BBC has a similar opinion

The Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, which both the UK and Ecuador have ratified, says that its protections do not apply to "any person with respect to whom there are serious reasons for considering that… he has committed a serious non-political crime outside the country of refuge prior to his admission to that country as a refugee".

The allegations faced by Mr Assange in Sweden are sexual assault and rape - serious non-political crime.

In summary, in appears that Assange and Ecuador both claim that Assange's asylum in the embassy is justified by his being a refugee. It's not clear that theirs was a legally-justified decision. The Guardian suggests that Ecuador's decision was political/diplomatic:

Ecuador has found a way to tweak the tail of the imperialist lion, but the law is not on Ecuador's side and, in the end, the law should be upheld.

This Wikipedia article summarizes Assange's pleadings in UK courts. The courts ruled against Assange, even at the Supreme Court level when the cause was appealed.

Extradition hearing

The extradition hearing took place on 7–8 and 11 February 2011 before the City of Westminster Magistrates' Court sitting at Belmarsh Magistrates' Court in London.[46][47] Assange's lawyers at the extradition hearing were Geoffrey Robertson QC and Mark Stephens, human rights specialists, and the prosecution was represented by a team led by Clare Montgomery QC.[48] Arguments were presented as to whether the Swedish prosecutor had the authority to issue a European Arrest Warrant, the extradition was requested for prosecution or interrogation, the alleged crimes qualified as extradition crimes, there was an abuse of process, his human rights would be respected, and he would receive a fair trial if extradited to Sweden.

Extradition decision

The outcome of the hearing was announced on 24 February 2011, when the extradition warrant was upheld.[49][50][51] Senior District Judge Howard Riddle found against Assange on each of the main arguments against his extradition.[52] The judge said "as a matter of fact, and looking at all the circumstances in the round, this person (Mr Assange) passes the threshold of being an accused person and is wanted for prosecution."[52] Judge Riddle concluded: "I am satisfied that the specified offences are extradition offences."[52]

  • Could you cite the United Nations convention on refugees directly?
    – Christian
    Nov 3, 2014 at 14:06
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    A copy of the treaty text exists at Text of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. The section which excludes serious non-political crimes from the definition of "refugee" is section F of Article 1 on page 16. The text quoted in the OP is presumably arguing that because he is fleeing persecution for political crime, he should not be extradited to face charges for non-political crimes. Apparently the UK court disagreed. I don't see evidence that he's taken his argument to any higher court than that (e.g. European Court of Human Rights).
    – ChrisW
    Nov 3, 2014 at 14:22
  • "shall not apply to any person with respect to whom there are serious reasons for considering that … he has committed a serious non-political crime outside the country of refuge". Well, that's almost everything. It is everything if you want it to be.
    – user11643
    Mar 10, 2017 at 14:00
  • @fredsbend I don't understand your comment.
    – ChrisW
    Mar 11, 2017 at 1:24

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